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Old Dec 10, 2009, 11:55 AM   #1
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Default Beginner DSLR buyer's thought process and recommendations.

Hi all,

I initially posted a thread requesting recommendations for a camera - I have not purchased it yet. From then til now, I have re-assessed my needs and have pretty much settled on purchasing a DSLR instead.

I have also outlined my thought process, in hope that others intending to do so can find some pointers.

Budget
- Limiting myself to entry level DSLR's with their kit lens package.

Are you new to cameras?
- Yes.

Where do you plan on using this camera?
- General everyday photography - as this will be my first camera, I would prefer an all-rounder of a camera
- face portraits shots
- scenery/landscapes
- group photos (e.g. at the dinner table)
- during travels with my girlfriend
- outings (e.g. to the beach, butterfly farm, light house)
- dinners
- street photography (I enjoy people watching)

Do you plan on using this camera indoors or in low light?
- Yes, I will be using it indoors and in low-light conditions (at home, at restaurants, with yellow tungsten lighting) I would like a camera that can work well with and without flash.

Do you plan on taking lots of sports or other action photos?
- No. If I do, it will be photos of my shih tzu puppies and golden retriever. Not many sports, I don't foresee it now.

Will you want manual settings and lots of features?
- Full manual.
- A good full auto mode will be good too for mom and the girlfriend to use.

How large will you need to make your prints?
- I don't think I will be doing much printing, may be the occasional normal prints (4x6) and may be an odd large one or two.
- It will end up on the web, normal sized.

Size
- The smaller/compact the camera the better.

How many megapixels will suffice for you?
- Not particular but sufficient enough for normal or large prints if required.

How important is “image quality” to you?
- High - isn't that what photography is all about - to capture the moment?

Do you need any of the following special features?
- Image stabilization: Yes please.

Are there particular models you already have in mind?
Nikon D3000
Olympus E-620

Thought process:
Elimination of the systems is based solely on ergonomics and local support. I doubt I will be using something often if I did not like holding it. The lack of local support is also a no-brainer for me.

- Canon: I did not like the ergonomics of the entry level bodies (i.e. the location of exposure compensation button, top command dial, grip and smooth slippery feel)
- Sony: I did not like the ergonomics of the entry level bodies (i.e. the front command dial and grip)
- Pentax: There is no local support of this brand (just no local shop carries this brand) Hence this brand is eliminated.

I especially dislike the front command dial setup (or using my fore finger), I am more of a thumb person when it comes to the command dial usage. I am also right handed but use my left eye when seeing through the OVF - hence, the EOS-1000D's exposure compensation button is poorly placed for me.

That left the Nikon and Olympus in the running. Based on my experience from my hands on time with the D3000 and E-620 bodies:

D3000
+ bigger viewfinder
+ better low light capabilities (due to APS-C sensor)
- all the positives of the E-620

E-620
+ small compact size (I find this very good for social events/outings, especially when coupled with the 25mm pancake lens)
+ live view
+ swivel LCD
+ dedicated buttons
+ awesome JPEG engine
- smaller viewfinder (inherent for 4/3 systems)
- not as good in low light as the D3000

In regards to the lenses of each system:

Nikon/Tamron/Sigma
+ low light primes (35mm or 50mm F/1.8) - good for low light
+ high quality standard zoom (Tamron 17-50 F/2.8)
(I did not research further into APS-C lenses so my apologies)

Olympus
+ high quality standard zooms (14-54mm F2.8-3.5 MKII, 12-60mm F/2.8-4 SWD)
+ high quality macro (50mm F2.0)
+ small pancake prime (25mm F2.8) - social outings/events
+ good kit lenses

To be honest, I am more keen on the Olympus E-620, especially due to its smaller compact size and subtle appearance with the 25mm pancake lens. As a beginner, I should be finding every opportunity to take pictures to learn and gain experience, hence my rationale for a more compact, slimmer, lighter, not so obvious or attention-attracting camera. This would allow me to take my camera wherever I go.

In addition to the E-620's physical size, its JPEG engine is also superb. I doubt I will be doing much Photoshopping (maybe only the basic simple stuff), so out of camera shots is much preferred (I guess). This may change, then RAW can be used - since both have RAW but Olympus's JPEG engine is better, that puts the E-620 ahead for me.

Is there anything else that I should be aware of? My only concerns between the D3000 and E-620 are:
- the low light capabilities of E-620 vs D3000 (would the difference in performance be like day and night - or would it be negligible? I won't be pixel peeping nor printing big copies, only web uploads or normal printing)
- the compactness of the D3000 + 35mm prime lens vs the E-620 + 25mm pancake. I don't have a size comparison of the D3000 + 35mm and E-620 + 25mm side by side to compare.

Phew! With that out of the way, I'll be doing some last minute research, before finally deciding and making a purchase this weekend! Are there anything that I should factor in between these 2 models or other makes?

I am only a beginner researching for his first DSLR, so my sincere apologies for any misquoted or wrong information contained in my post above.

Justin.
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Old Dec 10, 2009, 1:36 PM   #2
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The Tamron 17-50/2.8 is not available for the 4/3 mount, but the Sigma 18-50/2.8 is. And while they are both available for the Nikon D3000, the D3000 relies on optical image stabilization in the lens, and the stabilized version of Tamron's 17-50/2.8 is expensive, and Sigma's isn't available stabilized. But those lenses would give the Nikon a wider angle of view than the Olympus, which will be important for landscapes and group photos.

Of the two, I think the Nikon would be a better choice for you, despite the extra cost of Tamron's stabilized, large aperture, standard zoom lens.
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Old Dec 10, 2009, 2:00 PM   #3
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If you go with the Nikon, I'd probably get the 35mm f/1.8 with it on a tight budget.

That would give you about the same angle of view you'd have using a 53mm lens on a 35mm camera (multiply the focal length by 1.5x to compare with the D3000), which would be fine for many indoor shots (although you may not be able to get away with taking the group shots at the table with it, due to space limitations and not being able to back up far enough, depending on the room size).

The Sigma 30mm f/1.4 EX DC HSM would be an even better option (but, it would cost you more). That would give you roughly the same angle of view you'd have using a 45mm lens on a 35mm camera (with the ability to use faster shutter speeds). It's selling for $439 now at some reputable online vendors. But, it's a much brighter lens, too (with better build quality compared to the less expensive Nikkor lenses).

Note that with the D3000, you'll need to stick with lenses that have focus motors built in. For example, Sigma lenses with HSM (Hypersonic Motor Focusing), or Nikkor Lenses with AF-S (Silent Wave Motor Focusing). So, the Nikkor 50mm f/1.8 you mentioned would not Autofocus on a D3000 (because the Nikkor AF 50mm f/1.8 requires that you use a camera body with a focus motor built in to drive it, and the D3000 camera body does not have a built in focus motor).

In any event, you'll probably need to use ISO 3200 to have any chance of people shots indoors without too much blur, even using a prime (fixed focal length versus zoom lens). You'll also need to learn how to time your shots for the least amount of subject motion, which will take a bit of practice (especially trying to get shots of multiple people all still at the same time). ;-)

So, I'd probably lean towards the Sigma 30mm f/1.4 for those types of shots if you really don't want to use a flash so that you'll get faster shutter speeds with the aperture wide open if you need to shoot that way to get more keepers without blur from subject movement.

Of course, you may want to reconsider your options and get an external flash for family type events. That makes it a lot easier to get some keepers. You can find some relatively compact flashes now that would be just about perfect for typical family gatherings indoors without adding a lot of size, weight and bulk. Take a look at the Nikon SB-400 for one example. Then, you'd have the wider angle of view of the kit lens (the 18mm end of the Nikkor kit lens gives you about the same angle of view you'd have using a 27mm lens on a 35mm camera. You can bounce the flash for more diffused lighting that way, and keep ISO speeds set lower for higher image quality.
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Old Dec 10, 2009, 9:27 PM   #4
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Justin-

Either the Nikon D-3000 or the Olympus E-620 will give very good results. I use both these cameras. They each have their strong points. The Sigma 30mm F 1.4 lens works wonderfully with Nikon, but if cost is an issue, the Nikon 35mm F 1.8 is a more commonsense, money saving approach. It image quality on the Nikon D-3000 is very good.

The wider variety of available lenses for the Nikon D-3000 or D-5000 cameras now make them make them a slightly stronger choice than the Olympus E-620. However, I would not overlook the Nikon D-90 as well. It has a much better LCD screen and can mount all of the Nikon lenses without restriction.

For a starter DSLR camera, the Nikon D-3000 is a very strong choice, and a little better than the E-620 DSLR.

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Old Dec 10, 2009, 9:44 PM   #5
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Actually, due to the lack of an autofocus motor in the camera body, the number of lenses available fo rthe D3000/D5000 isn't much better than for the Olympus. But the D90 is another story.
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Old Dec 10, 2009, 10:21 PM   #6
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With the olympus, you get IS no matter what lens you are using because of the body built in IS.

The olympus lens lineup are really good, I agree the olympus has the better lenses out the box. The olympus 9-18 f4 is a very good wide angel lens. If you are look at landscape shooting. With the sigma and panasonic lens, you get a very good selection of lenses to chose from.

Up to 800iso the E620 is equal in performance to APSC camera's in it range, the d5000, t1i, k-x, and the a380.

Also like the fact the olympus give you allot of in camera fliter options to less editing later. As I am lazy and not to big on post shooting editing.

So given the e620 vs the d3000 I would go with the e620. It has more to offer in these price range, and it was really design to go up again the d5000 and t1i.

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Old Dec 10, 2009, 10:31 PM   #7
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shoturtle-

Yes, I am a long time Olympus user as well. However this statement of yours says it all:

"Up to 800iso the E620 is equal in performance to APSC camera's in it range, the d5000, t1i, k-x, and the a380."

If ISO 800 can handle your needs with an occasional "pinch shot" where you are forced to use ISO 1600. The The E-620, I agree is the better camera. However, if you need numerically higher ISO setting than ISO 800 on a regular basis, then the balance moves toward the Nikon D-300.

So in the final analysis it comes down to your photo shooting habits. Generally speaking, folks transitioning from a P+S camera are prone to be in the ISO 800 and below category. More experienced DSLR users tend to desire numerically higher ISO capabilities.

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Old Dec 10, 2009, 11:26 PM   #8
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That is why I said it,

If low light is the key point then that does lean the choice though the d3000. But I have gotten a chance to play with the e620 quite a bit, and even at 1600 it still takes a very good picture, granted not as well as the d3000, but still very good. For those coming from P&S with lower grade lenses, the e620 at 1600iso is a giant step forward. Though both goes to e3200iso they both fall short at this range. For that I would look at the t1i, d5000, or pentax k-x.
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Old Dec 11, 2009, 12:05 AM   #9
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shoturtle-

If you are going to consider the canon T-1, the Nikon D-5000, and the Pentax Kx, you should also look very closely at the Nikon D-90 DSLR camera as well. It is about a $(US) 200.00 move upward from the D-5000, in financial outlay, but now you get very substantial amount of upgraded features that IMO only seem to eclipse the Nikon D-500, the Sony A-500, and the Canon t-1 (just barely!).

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Old Dec 11, 2009, 12:08 AM   #10
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Justin-

I apologize for letting this thread go "off topic" a bit. For clarity sake, I still stand by recommendation of the Nikon D-5000 as the better entry level camera for you, over the Olympus E-620.

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